They called Juno whip-smart, and some of us still have the lash scars. Tully, by writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, has everything left out of their first film together that made it the crowd-pleaser that it was. Tully has some of the narcissism seen in Juno and their follow-up, Young Adult, but there’s also some unusually raw material, acted by Charlize Theron with barely smothered fury.
Marlo (Theron), vastly pregnant, has a young son who is vaguely on the autism spectrum, and an older daughter who is in an awkward stage. Her husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), has a high-tech job that he can’t begin to explain to listeners. When not plugged into shooter games on his console, he travels for work frequently, leaving Marlo alone on the mommy track.
Marlo’s very well-off brother Craig (Mark Duplass) offers a suggestion: He’ll hire Marlo a ‘night-nanny’ who comes in during the first difficult months after birth, to tend to the baby and bring it in for midnight feedings. The nanny finally arrives: Tully (Mackenzie Davis), as manic and as pixieish a dream girl as ever seen, is not only a perfect servant, but a marvelous confidante, helping to pull Marlo out of the pit of postpartum numbness and despair.
Tully’s well-articulated anguish over a mother’s loss of self while tending a newborn is very unusual. In the feminist days of rage, it would have been society who forced the woman into the role of brood sow and slop cleaner. In this aftermath of an unplanned pregnancy, Marlo did this to herself—she has no one to blame—and here is everything savage about new motherhood that was skated over in Juno. The montage of breast-pumping and diaper-changing is so brutal that you feel like calling your mom in the middle of the movie and thanking her.